Alistair is throwing another of his famous club nights and has filled three floors of Manchester's Paradise Factory with students in Crimplene mini-dresses and white knee-high boots or op-art shirts and stack heels. His Austin Powers night is a throw-back to the Sixties and the club looks like an LSD-laced love-in. But these are the neutered Nineties so sex, drugs and rock'n'roll ain't what they used to be.
As they feast themselves on their first tastes of freedom, sex is a long way down the menu. "Students don't sleep around much at college," says Tasha. "Everyone knows each other and word gets about." She mentions "randoms" - the odd shag with someone outside her own circle - but that's pretty rare. These are all second-year students, so perhaps they did it all in the first year. But Tasha wasn't really there, either. "I went to a mixed boarding school which is probably as debauched as you can get," she says with a wry smile. "I got it all out of my system." Tasha is 20.
Ian's a comp boy and prefers not to sleep with "college people", more because he finds the girls a bit immature than from any fear of social repercussions. "I'm seeing this girl who's really cool," he confesses. "I like her style and she's not too girly. I'm in two minds about having a relationship. The whole point of being at college is the freedom."
While most girls are flashing cleavages and smiles, Leona and Tasha are buttoned up in white coats (it's that Austin Powers lab-technician look). "I don't like wearing really obviously sexy clothes. I'm much more comfortable like this," she says. Leona, who still leads the student life even though she's left her course, kept up a steady relationship with a boy back home for the first year but admits to going wild last term. "I slept around a bit but I've settled down more now," she explains, "although I can't stay with anyone for long." While she's busy chatting to an Engelbert Humperdinck lookalike at the bar, Alistair is busy flirting with a pretty blonde in the corner - but he's a public school boy and flirting just goes with the territory.
In fact, he's the only sober one out. Everyone else is tanked up on vodka and beer. When it comes to drugs, ecstasy, cocaine and speed aren't on the menu. It's alcohol they're after. "It's a real drinking scene here in Manchester," says Robbie. "Students only go for spliff and drink, partly because it's cheap and partly because there's not a dance scene any more in Manchester. People might take coke at flashier clubs but drugs are more associated with the street gangs and students don't go there. Anyway, coke is more a London thing."
So what about rock'n'roll? Alistair's laid on easy listening and funk on the ground floor, garage and house on the first and drum'n'bass on the second. All three floors are packed with writhing bodies. On the top floor, Tasha pulls faces at the DJ until he plays some decent drum'n'bass and then it's eyes down, foot-stomping and hip-wiggling all round.Reuse content